19 November 2010

remembering Christina Huemer

Christina Huemer died a few days ago and this leaves a big hole in the world, my world. She was one of the first art librarians that I knew and helped shape my view of art libraries along with Judith Holliday and Pat Sullivan, the other art librarians then at Cornell. We met in 1970 when she was the assistant librarian at Sibley Library and I was a copy cataloger in the main library.

Many memories of being with Chris are circulating in my brain and soul. One of my favorite times with Chris is probably a visit to a codfish restaurant in Rome, named simply Bacala, I think. They served filets of cod, deep fried, with paper wrappers and you just ordered as many as you wanted. As Chris, Christie Stephenson and I entered the restaurant, the waiters were having an argument about whether Bill Shatner had been in spaghetti westerns. The waiters recognized that Chris was fluent in Italian but American by upbringing so they engaged her in their lively discussion. Chris's fluent but non-native Italian and their fluent and native Italian were a beautiful mix. I don't think we resolved the issue but the cod was wonderful. The restaurant is on the plaza in front of the church of Santa Barbara, near the Campo de' Fiori.

Chris moved to Rome in the mid 1980s, starting at ICCROM and then moving to Florence for a while. She found Rome much more to her liking and I think my love of Rome is significantly due to her enthusiasm. Our discussion of the differences was mostly over a meal with Pat Barnett in Florence, during the IFLA art conference. Rome is gritty and busy, rather like New York City; Florence is rather more precious and a shopper's place. Great art and architecture in both places, undeniably.

After her stint in Florence, Chris became the librarian at the American Academy in Rome. They had been SACO contributors for a while and Chris arranged for me to come over to give some NACO training in 1998. She arranged for me and Bill Connor to have a room in the Villa Aurelia for two weeks as payment for a couple days of NACO training. There was a Sol LeWitt drawing on the wall near the staircase to our room. We had a wonderful time and went on an Academy field trip to the port city of Ostia. Bill and I also went to Fiumicino to see Chris in her apartment one evening. Fiumicino is on the coast and a bit like Jersey shore towns.

Chris usually did a drawing for her Christmas card and I especially remember one she did of the canal in Fiumicino.

I miss Chris. She was a fine person as well as being a good librarian. We shared lots of conversations in person and in letters and cards. On the bleaker side, we talked about our cancer: hers internal, mine skin. It was our enthusiasm for art and architecture, places, people, reading, and life that enriched our friendship. That will stay with me, even though Chris is now gone.

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